Fifteen years after she last acted in a
movie, and 25 years since the evergreen ‘Mr India’, Sridevi makes a
return to the big screen in the Hindi film, ‘English Vinglish’. The
movie, which sees her as a housewife struggling to learn English, is from
debutant director Gauri Shinde and her husband, adman-turned-filmmaker, R Balki.
Born and raised in Tamil Nadu, Sridevi
began her career at the age of five, and is now the mother of two daughters –
Jhanvi (15) and Khushi (almost 12). She talks about her first day on the sets
this time around, meeting expectations, her favourite co-stars and more.
convinced you to return to acting in movies after such a long hiatus and what,
in particular, about 'English Vinglish' appealed to you?
The character of Shashi really touched
my heart. I could really relate to her and I thought the audience would be able
to relate to the simplicity honesty, and innocence of her character as a
housewife and mother. I didn’t do a movie earlier because I felt that if I was
going away from my children and house, I would only do it if I enjoyed it. And that
is how I felt about ‘English Vinglish’. Nothing that came my way in the
past years did that. So it’s also a compliment to director Gauri. She was very
clear and approachable and made my life very easy.
Were you nervous on the first day back on set?
Not at all! I didn’t feel like there was
a gap of 15 years. It was like I had shot day before yesterday, taken a break
for a day and was back on the set. I have grown up in the studios. My only
worry was how my children would cope up, and they did very well, thanks to my
husband, Boneyji, who stood by me and babysat.
Are you planning other films too?
It depends on what kind of script I get.
It should excite me in the same way that ‘English Vinglish’ did. Most importantly,
I should not feel awkward to show my films to my children or my husband. I am
very clear with what I want, what I am able to do and what is comfortable for
me. Those who approach me should also be clear about what I will be comfortable
with. I would like to do more films in the South where I started my career. Chennai
is my hometown and I always feel secure there. Tamil films are superb now,
often made with newcomers and technically advanced.
Do you like what Bollywood has to offer?
We watch movies together at the cinema,
as a family. I saw ‘The Dirty Picture’, ‘Kahaani’and ‘Vicky Donor’recently
and really enjoyed them.
Do you feel the burden of expectations
that come from your fan following and earlier work?
Yes, and it should be there. That makes
me responsible and I hope and pray that I don’t disappoint my fans because
whatever I am is because of them. I hope they like this film.
Looking back, which of your own films are you most proud of?
There are some films that stand out and
gave me a good opportunity. ‘Moondram Pirai’ (‘Sadma’), ‘Mr India’,
‘Nagina’, ‘Lamhe’, ‘Chandni’and ‘Chalbaaz’ are films that are very
dear to my heart.
What do you do to unwind and keep fit?
I love sports, especially playing tennis
with my daughters. I also love swimming. I go to the gym, do yoga and walk a
lot. We travel often. I usually exercise for two days and then am travelling
for four days. I love travelling, especially to London, Paris, Delhi and Madras.
In order to unwind, I just like to be myself in my room. At that time, I don’t
want to do anything, not even answer a phone call. I like to be quiet and
listen to music. I love all Tamil music and my husband and I both enjoy old
Hindi film music. I also love to paint.
What role does painting play in your
It is my hobby. Whatever I have painted
so far I have given as gifts to my friends or the paintings are hanging in my
house. All the paintings in this room are by me. The one of Michael Jackson upstairs
I did for my daughter. I like oil paintings but it takes time, sometimes months.
I started painting when I was acting. After shooting, I would paint. I don’t
have any training. Then when I started helping my daughters in school, the
teachers encouraged me. I used to go to school to teach painting. It’s very
calming. I feel such a high before starting a painting and it feels so good
when it comes out right.
Do you miss anything about Chennai?
I miss Pongal and Maatu Pongal. I miss
sugarcane, which I am crazy about. I am very proud to be South Indian and have
great memories of being brought up in Madras. I still have a home there. Madras
has changed a lot though – it’s become very happening.
Looking back, any regrets?
Look, in order to get something you have
to lose something. You can’t have everything in life. So I am happy with what I
got. I lost out on going to school, college and college life but I got into the
film industry and worked without a gap – from child actor I went straight to
There was no time to think and I was grateful for it.
What if your daughters want to act?
Why not? After all, whatever little
achievement I have is from this industry, but right now I want them to study. Once
they finish their studies, we will see what is in their minds. However, I do
hope that my daughters don’t have to give up anything: they should get
‘English Vinglish’will premier at the Toronto International Film Festival on
September 14 and is scheduled to release in India on October 5.